The Baltimore Ravens ended last season in the greatest of fashions by winning the Super Bowl. After a somewhat lackluster season full of many ups and downs they were able to charge through the playoffs by getting hot at the right time.
On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers struggled all season long to get much of anything going. They weren’t the worst team in the NFL, yet they weren’t the best either. The last 10 games of the season showed some promise as the group went 5-5 including winning their last four games.
Heading into Thursday night’s preseason game, it is the first attempt for each team to get a good look at the possible future for each franchise.
The Ravens rewarded quarterback Joe Flacco with a new, heavily loaded contract. With Flacco tied down for years to come, the quarterback can now sit back and relax in the pocket knowing he does not need to prove his worth anymore.
Running back Ray Rice returned to practice this week after suffering a minor ankle injury, and if he is at full force, we should see him on the field for the first couple of series.
Since parting ways with veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, the Ravens are looking for a new receiver to place into the lineup. Torrey Smith will now be the No. 1 receiver, and with his tremendous speed and athletic ability, he should be Flacco’s go-to guy in the passing game. Deonte Thompson, David Reed and Tommy Streeter are all competing for spots at receiver and will see the field quite a bit more than Smith.
Starting tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a season ending injury and the Ravens are looking for a replacement. Ed Dickson looks to be the next guy in line, but Billy Bajema and Visanthe Shiancoe will look to make a surprise run for the starting position.
For the Buccaneers, second year sensation Doug Martin will see his first action on the field hoping to get things going early to avoid a sophomore slump. Mike James, Brian Leonard and Michael Smith will all compete for the backup job behind Martin and more importantly, a roster spot.
The tight end race will be one of the most watched races by the Buccaneers’ staff. Luke Stocker, who was activated from the PUP list Tuesday and is still nursing a calf injury, will vie for the starting spot against Tom Crabtree and Zach Miller both of whom are seeing their first games with the Buccaneers. Any of the three tight ends could see themselves in the starting lineup for week one and the preseason will be their final exam.
Watch for how Flacco and the Ravens perform with the loss of Boldin and Pitta as they try to make a run at winning a second Super Bowl in a row while the Buccaneers aim to get the offense functioning into what would resemble a playoff contender.
Tristen Challe is a Fantasy Writer for Rantsports. Follow him on Twitter @TristenChalle